The internet as a new space, where everyone can create a new identity made me think about how the users actually use the possibilities of self-fashioning and creating.
I guess the possibility of creating a new virtual person of oneself exists since people are able to translate their physical way of life into pictures and language. The internet however is just a new opportunity to create a new ´I´ for people who have maybe never thought about doing this before.
Anyway, in my opinion, the cyberspace is just ´another place to meet´, so it is not a new reality but an extension of the real world. So if you create a new identity why not switching the gender? I found this theory about ´gender swapping´ by John Suler.
While our real mind with the associated gender is sitting in front of the screen and is probably not affected by the online gender switching, the body as a social construct online experiences the opposite gender. Reasons to switch genders online could be to do it ´just for fun´, curiosity, prank other users or even to find someone for ´cyber-sex´ of the same gender. It is easily conceivable to switch the gender in almost every form of the internet – in a blog, in an online game, in chat rooms or social media.
It all starts with the nickname what is the first hint for a gender attribution. In online games, it is also possible to choose an avatar in the opposite gender and create the whole body in a specific gender. But there are borders as well, since there is the so called ´raid´, where they talk to each other with their real voices. However, it is interesting, that gender swapping apparently increases the use of stereotypes, since users mostly live up their stereotypes of the opposite gender in online games.
There are also some hints how to swap gender and how to experience the whole internet easier with a reversed view on gender roles. With this program, all the nouns and verbs on the internet are automatically changed into the reverse gender.
Since there is a certain immaterialness online, it is possible to switch the gender in theory, but in my opinion, it is not possible to act like a person with the opposite gender since the real body is still sitting in front of the computer and acts according to the social norms and the gender constructions outside the internet. Also the difference how women and men experience certain situations and react to those probably can not be hidden. Although a lot of aspects are probably easy to fake, e.g. language and phrases or some kind of behaviour. Nevertheless, I think that gender-swapping can be useful to explore the role as a woman or man for a certain time.
There is also some research on this field and here are some conclusions of online gaming and gender swapping.
I think you have found some interesting links, articles and even a program. I like how you mention that gender swapping may increase the use of stereotypes. When talking about gender swapping online one tend to talk about a change to feminine to masculine or vice verse. But is there one femininity and one masculinity to change to? In other contexts one usually talk about masculinities and femininities in plural. So when talking about gender swapping online it is very fruitful to use performativity theory.